Marketing is a field that must always stay on top of the newest developments, and the most recent up-and-comer is voice search, brought to us by the likes of Amazon Alexa and Google’s voice-enabled assistant, among others. Google has long retained ultimate dominance over the online search domain, but they are slowly losing their grip, as more and more consumers search for products directly through Amazon’s flagship website, bypassing Google entirely and ensuring that their search data and product viewing habits sit with the online retail giant. Amazon has released a new line of voice-enabled products featuring Alexa, such as the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, while Google has released Google Home. Amazon, although they have a semi-popular line of tablets in rotation, has no smartphone line to speak of, whereas Google hold a major market share with their Android products. Google has, reasonably, started to push further integration with Google assistant in their Android software.
What does this mean for consumers and marketers? It represents a massive sea change that will greatly benefit those willing to take advantage of the new emerging trends. Google says that more than 20% of all searches conducted through their platform are now voice searches. Some are saying that this number may jump to 50%, or fully half of all online searches, within the next year. The significance of this is that voice search results are significantly different from traditional online search results. One major difference is the way searches are conducted by the consumer. Adults above 30 years old probably remember a time when internet searches were more of an exact science, powered mostly by an intelligent selection of keywords. Typing a full, conversational query like “How do I clean wood floors without damaging them?” was a surefire way to confuse the search engine and return results that were less than useful. While search engines have become vastly more sophisticated and consumers have become more conversational with them, that tendency still remains. When making voice searches, however, consumers are far less likely to verbally utter a string of keywords and far more likely to ask their digital assistant a simple question. This means that marketers must pay closer attention to their search engine optimization efforts and find ways to make their content more conversational, in the style of what their targeted audiences are looking for.
The way that search results are parsed and viewed is also different, especially in the case of personal home assistant devices that, in some cases, have no screens. The algorithms that these companies use to determine which of the top search results to return to the consumer will be of growing importance for marketers to learn and adapt to in order to stay relevant. As it turns out, despite the fact that millions of voice searches are conducted every few hours, younger generations continue to engage with written content more than any other medium. This presents a complicated and multi-faceted challenge for the marketing industry. Businesses must study and adapt to the ever-changing methods consumers use to interface with potential advertising venues, while continuing to focus on and invest in quality written content that will ultimately make the brand stand out and encourage further engagement. Marketing businesses, therefore, will have to continue to rely on attracting talented writers and retaining web content writing services in order to continue producing the quality content that, as of today, remains the foundation of any good branding or marketing campaign.
Despite the growing dominance of voice searching and its undeniable relevance to the marketing industry, it is not immune to setbacks or bad publicity. The same generation that prefers to engage with personalized, usually written material, is more wary than every of transparent advertising techniques and marketers will have to find more creative ways to reach them. These are the consumers that use adblockers and prefer to find new businesses and brands through social media and word of mouth. Taking all that into account, stories about products featuring Amazon’s Alexa service eavesdropping on people’s conversations and even sending those conversations to their friends are certain to raise a few eyebrows. The issue of privacy is one that has continually taken a backseat to other, more exciting news stories, but it’s also one that consumer are increasingly sensitive to. The “Hey, Wiretap” meme pokes fun at people installing microphones in their home that could be listening to their every conversation so they can look up pancake recipes in the kitchen. A search for the same phrase shows several places where you can buy t-shirts with “Hey, wiretap” written on them in the same font and color scheme as the famous Google logo.
Consumers certainly won’t abandon voice search simply because of privacy concerns, and although there has been some backlash, consumers have shown more or less decisively that they are willing to trade some privacy for the convenience. Voice search, simply put, isn’t going anywhere – even animals love it. Marketers and consumers alike are going to have to learn to adapt to this new technology, as they have before and ultimately will have to do again in the future.